Race Weekend Central

Short Track Weekly: Is Corey Day the Future of JR Motorsports?

The stock car world may have been given an introduction to its next big crossover star from the dirt track world last month. But if you weren’t paying close attention, you probably missed it.

Spoiler alert: It was 18-year old phenom Corey Day

Flashback to Saturday, April 27. It was a quiet night in the southeast grassroots world. No CARS Tour event for the Late Model Stock Cars. No SMART Tour showdown for the Modifieds. Just NASCAR Weekly races, including a set of Twin 40’s at Hickory Motor Speedway. 

Day snuck onto the entry list at Hickory on Saturday afternoon, listed next to a JR Motorsports No. 88 Late Model Stock. The news flew under the radar until a tweet from Dale Earnhardt Jr. around 8:30 p.m. ET blew up on X.

“There is a JR Motorsports Late Model at Hickory Motor Speedway tonight with Corey Day at the wheel on FloRacing,” Earnhardt posted. “Twin features. Local Classes.”

Day rolled from the 10th position in a field of 12 cars for the first of two 40-lap features at Hickory, putting in a solid 10th to seventh run in his asphalt debut. An eight-car invert put Day outside the front row for the second feature, a chance to showcase his talent from the front of the field. 

And that’s what Day did. The young prospect put on a clinic from the second starting spot. He took the lead on lap two, led the final 39 laps and drove away without a challenge from the rest of the field. 

The most intriguing part of the night came during Day’s post-race interview. Following the impressive victory, Day climbed from the JR Motorsports No. 88 wearing a fully-marked JR Motorsports fire suit, already stitched with his name. 

What may have seemed like a fun, one-off opportunity on a High Limit Racing off week suddenly appeared to be a developing story, which has us thinking. Could Corey Day be JR Motorsports’ next Late Model prospect?

With the immediate success for Carson Kvapil in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, he is more than likely on the fast track to a promotion, meaning the JR Motorsports Late Model program will have an open seat once again. 

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Day is one of the top young prospects in all of motorsports, with an impressive resume at just 18-years old. The then-17-year-old Day picked up his first World of Outlaws Sprint Car win in the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway back in September 2023. 

Day secured a prelim night win at the 2024 Chili Bowl in January, before starting his first full-time national sprint car campaign in February. He currently sits fourth in the High Limit standings, 69 points behind series leader Brad Sweet. Through 12 races Day has three wins, six top fives and nine top 10s to his name. 

While Day might not be the most traditional and expected candidate for the future of JR Motorsports’ grassroots operation, there are some things that point in the direction of this being a possibility. 

First and foremost, the fact that Day already possesses a JRM firesuit with his name on it indicates that this likely wasn’t a one-off deal. There could be more in the works. Earnhardt and the team seemed to keep the Hickory event hush-hush up until race time, which seems counterproductive for a one-time deal. 

Following the CARS Tour event at New River All-American Speedway back in April, Earnhardt told Frontstretch about numerous upcoming announcements, including one that could have Day’s name written all over it. 

“We announced Sammy Smith is going to race at Wilkesboro with Cherry Lemon Sundrop and we’ve got another cool announcement coming for the Wednesday Carway event that I think people will be excited about,” Earnhardt said.

Many began speculating as to who may be behind the wheel at Caraway Speedway on July 3, and before the surprise appearance for Day at Hickory, his name was never even on the radar. But he is now, and a little digging shows that both World of Outlaws and High Limit go on a break starting June 29 and don’t pick back up until July 12 and 13, respectively. 

This means Day has some potential free time from the national sprint car ranks. Even if Day and Clauson Marshall Racing want to attend a local event on their off weekend, the CARS Tour event happens to fall on Wednesday. This in theory should mean that Day’s schedule will be wide open, and the under-the-radar deal at Hickory could have been in preparation for the Caraway event coming up in a few months time. 

Aside from scheduling, Day has plenty of ties to the JR Motorsports team in both the sprint car and NASCAR worlds. For starters, one of Day’s biggest promoters has been Kyle Larson. While Day competes in the series that Larson co-owns, Larson has gone on record multiple times praising Day, including in a press conference at Martinsville Speedway this past April. 

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Larson has an obvious connection with Earnhardt, not only driving for Earnhardt’s old team in Hendrick Motorsports, but also have driven and won in JRM’s Xfinity Series car. He also made a Late Model Stock start at Caraway in July 2023.

Another connection that Day has to Earnhardt is the other series co-owner of High Limit, Sweet. The series points leader is a more regular face for Day in the sprint car pits, but also drove for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series during his time in NASCAR. Sweet made 17 starts for the team back in 2013. 

Maybe the most influential connection Day has to JR Motorsports is one that is less known to the public eye – Hendrick Motorsports team president Jeff Andrews. He has been with the team since 1992, spending most of his career working the ranks of the company’s engine department. 

But before the move to NASCAR, Andrews learned the ins and outs of the engine business through his father’s sprint car engine shop in Fresno, California. In a recent episode of Justin Fiedler’s “DIRTRACKR Daily”, Fiedler reported that one of the cars supposedly having engines built in that shop was tied to Day’s father, Ronnie Day

Fiedler went on to report that the Day family has been seen at multiple NASCAR events in recent months, spending time Andrews himself. It’s no secret Hendrick plays a big role behind the scenes at JR Motorsports, and there are more than enough connections for Hendrick and Earnhardt to see potential in Day’s stock car future.

This is purely speculation. But it’s hard to deny the signs that point towards Day being back in a JR Motorsports late model in the near future, even if it isn’t the Caraway event being hinted at above.

We’ve seen this story before. Before becoming stars of the NASCAR world, 15-year old Tyler Reddick won a Lucas Oil Late Model event back in 2009, a 19-year old Larson swept the Four Crown Nationals back in 2011. Christopher Bell, then 18, claimed a USAC title back in 2013. 

There have been others that didn’t pan out. But Day has all the tools in his arsenal. With the right opportunities laid ahead of him, the Californian could become one of stock car racing’s future crossover stars. Don’t be surprised if you see him back on the asphalt side soon.

About the author

Chase began working with Frontstretch in the spring of 2023 as a news writer, while also helping fill in for other columns as needed. Chase is now the main writer and reporter for Frontstretch.com's CARS Tour coverage, a role which began late in 2023.  Aside from racing, some of Chase's other hobbies include time in the outdoors hunting and fishing, and keeping up with all things Philadelphia sports related.

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